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A British company has successfully guided its customised 'quadcopter' on a 35km journey across the English Channel, becoming the first ever drone to make the trip in the process.
A team from commerical drone company Ocuair says it's celebrating a double feat after claiming the drone, named Enduro 1, also nailed a new record for completing the world's longest single official flight in a quadcopter.
Manned by the company's operations director Richard Gill, the commercial, unmanned aerial-vehicle (UAV) recorded a journey time of 72 minutes for the flight.
Setting off on 16 February from a beach in Wissant in Northern France, Gill had to navigate Enduro 1 along a route that also happens to be the most the world's most busiest seaway. Followed closely by the Ocuair team in a boat, Gill said he had to ensure he was within a radius of at least 500m to maintain control of the drone.
You can witness the impressive journey in the short time-lapse video below, which includes a hasty change of course at the 30-second mark as the team come across a rather large cargo ship.
Enduro 1, the real star of the show, was kitted out with an array of bespoke gear including a custom airframe, motors and blades as well as two large 22Ah batteries and a GPS guidance system. The GPS itself caused a bit of an issue for Gill, who had the difficult task of manually piloting the drone after the GPS assistance failed in the final 20 minutes.
Ocuair claims that its flight represents "a famous aviation milestone," which "demonstrates the future potential of commercial drone technology". Gill felt the achievement could further open the discussion of potential legislation in the UK to allow UAVs to have practical use in the commercial sector, stating that: "The UK leads the world in terms of legislation, I thought it would be good to see us lead the world in commercial UAV applications, too."
The record, which is in the process of being verified by the British Model Flying Association, follows the news that researchers at the University of Southampton are also exploring the merits of long-distance drone flight with new innovations in wing design mimicking the physiology of bats.